The Tweed gossip mill has been churning so hard lately I think I see smoke drifting from its wheels. Someone said something and someone else got mad and someone else told someone else and that someone went back to the original someone, but the story changed slightly, so the first someone is pissed at the second someone, and new someones got involved, and now everyone’s all “Oooh… there’s gonna be a beating…”
Just kidding. We don’t beat people all willy nilly up here. But watching it unfold reminds me of all the little things that bother me about this place.
Living in a small town is kind of like living in a bubble. It’s close, tight even, and you can’t help but notice everything that happens. Everyone knows you, or has heard of you, and whatever you say or do can come back to haunt you whenever the universe deems it time to bite you in the ass. Now, I’m not knocking small towns. Not entirely anyway. The air is clean! No traffic! Everyone knows your name… wait, that’s not a “pro.” But you can walk to every destination, and oh my shit, the people are sooooo friendly!
Most of them are friendly.
Some are friendly.
We have good intentions?
I’ve lived in a small town my whole life. It’s my fault I’m still here. I chose to stay, because as much as I hate it sometimes, I would miss this shit hole. I’d miss the people and the dependability of it all. However, if you don’t understand small town politics, or if you dare to step outside the established social rules, you could dig yourself a hole of awful so deep, you’ll never be able to climb out. Small towns NEVER forget.
Think of small town life like high school. They’re both full of cliques. Sure, city folk deal with this too, but in a small town, you’re in a fish bowl environment, so you can’t avoid these assholes. And social media has made the world of a small town girl even smaller. If you don’t hear about it at the post office or the local coffee shop, you can be sure to read it on Facebook or Twitter.
I graduated high school with most of the kids I met on the first day of kindergarten. My children have the same teachers I had in school, and their classmates are the offspring of my classmates. A new person in town is a fucking monumental event. Who are they? Where are they from? Are they on crack? Probably a murderer. All outsiders are fucked up. We know this. Let’s get him before he can get us.
*meets new person on the street*
“Hi,” big smiles. “So you bought the old Cassidy place.”
“Um… I did?”
“Yeah,” smiles maniacally. “You got kids?”
*probably little fucking criminal assholes*
“Oh? How old are they?”
Blah, blah, blah.
“Well, have a nice day.”
*Smiling all the way to BFF’s house where you will share your weird meeting with the newb.*
That new family has an advantage over the rest of us. They have a clean slate. However, they also have a huge mountain to climb if they ever want to fit in. First, all the locals are discussing them, but rarely talking TO them. We’re buzzing about, deciding whether or not we’ll talk to them or try to befriend them. We’re making up stories to fill their empty slate, and then we wait to see which one sticks. We watch others. See who they gravitate toward. I mean, if they decide to be friends with the breeders or the barfly who never seems to go to work, well we want no part of that. On the other hand, if they end up pals with that stuck-up bunch at the top of the town hierarchy, well they obviously think they’re too good for us. Fucking pretentious snobs. They’re what’s wrong with everything. Privileged bunch of pricks.
Just kidding. (Or am I?)
The new family will walk a tightrope they’re not aware they’re on. The choices they make, the people they’re nice to, and even the clothes they wear will determine their place in town for as long as they remain, which is usually forever. Let’s face it: Once in, you usually don’t get out.
Still, the new family has it better than some of the natives do. No one knows their story, so they can make shit up. For the rest of us, your last name can make you, or break you. For example, in school, your older siblings can fuck you over big time. Whatever they did will haunt you. Teacher calls your name, asks if you know so-and-so, you say “Yeah, he’s my brother,” and there you go. Fucked. Your reputation begins where your asshole brother left off. If you don’t have siblings, consider what your mother and father might have done to ruin your good name. Even your loser cousin can leave a stain on your name.
It’s the same when you grow up. Your reputation in a small down depends largely on your family. If they’re dicks, you’re a dick. Nope. No fighting it. It simply is. A small town is like an annoying elephant, never forgetting shit. Ever.
Don’t know what you’re doing? Someone else does and they’ll tell you. They’ll tell everyone.
You don’t like everyone all up in your business. No one does. But for the love of Christ, don’t EVER voice an unpopular opinion. Are you stupid? Your opinion is only valuable if the majority says it is. You will be able to determine this by listening to the local gossip. Figure out which way the vote is swinging. If no one is parroting what you’re thinking, you keep your goddamn mouth closed. You hear me?
And let’s not forget the weird factor. Every small town has a strangeness that is unique to its residents. What is it? Well, it’s not always definable. The combined quirks of the town’s residents often give a small town a sort of “Deliverance” meets “Twilight Zone” meets “Twin Peaks” feel.
Or is that just Tweed?
Don’t get me wrong. I love my small town. I love the community, the reliability (ain’t nobody coming in without us knowing about it), and the way that we all come together like family when tragedy occurs. It’s also full of rich, unique characters and storylines that are valuable to writer types.
So, I guess I don’t hate it. I resent the superficiality of our politics, and the predictability of some of my neighbors is annoying, but I think my small town life has given more than it’s taken from me. I mean without it, I might not have been driven to write, and I know you’re all grateful for that. (winky face)